Try Teff, the Secret Ingredient of Runners

10-19-teff-tastic-blog

American athletes are leading the charge to make teff, an ancient grain from Ethiopia, the latest superfood trend here in the US. An excellent source of iron and magnesium, and a good source of protein, fiber, calcium, and zinc, along with other nutrients, African runners have relied on the tiny grain for centuries. And today, Fitbit Ambassador Ryan Hall and Olympic Marathoner Shalane Flanagan have started fueling their long runs with the slow, steady energy release teff provides. It’s gluten free, and not genetically modified, so even if you’re not racing for a podium finish, it’s worth powering up with this delicious whole grain.

Where to Find Teff

Teff is available as the whole grains or ground into a flour, and can be found in some supermarkets, as well as health foods stores and online retailers. The grains work well for simmering, and the flour for baking, so check labels, depending on what you intend to make. The grains are surprisingly tiny, similar to other minis like chia seeds or amaranth grains. Toasting brings out its nutty character, but don’t expect teff grains to fluff up like a pot of rice—the texture is more gelatinous, like creamy wheat cereal or even chia pudding. The classic Ethiopian preparation is injera, the spongy and sour flatbread, used to mop up stews and veggies. But runners around the world are putting teff into more familiar foods, like their pre-run porridges and pancakes.

3 Ways to Try Teff

Teff porridge simmers the whole grains to make a warm and comforting breakfast bowl. Check package instructions, but it’s typically a 3 to 1 ratio (3 cups water, 1 cup teff). Stir in a pinch of salt, a dab of butter, and a sprinkle of cinnamon, if you wish. Then add your favorite toppings, like dates and nuts, bananas and berries, or roasted apples and pears.

Teff “polenta” is a savory twist. In a saucepan, bring 3 cups (24 fl oz/750 ml) chicken or veggie stock to a boil. Stir in 1 cup (5 oz/155 g) teff grains. Simmer 20 minutes or according to package directions, until the grains are tender and they form a loose mash. The polenta will continue to thicken as it cools. Stir in a tablespoon of butter and a handful of parmesan, and season with salt and pepper. Serve warm, sprinkled with parmesan and herbs, topped with garlicky sautéed mushrooms or chard, or as a side for salmon or steak. As with polenta, you can pour the mash into a pan, let it cool, and cut it into squares, which can be seared and served later.

Teff pancakes, made from the flour, are toasty and nutty. Remember that teff doesn’t contain any gluten, so if you use it in your regular banana bread recipe, your expectations may fall flat. Pancakes are pretty forgiving, but to give them a little loft, blend teff with other whole-grain flours. Here’s a basic recipe:

1 cup (7 oz/220 g) teff flour
1 cup (5 oz/155 g) whole-wheat flour
½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 tablespoon baking powder
½ teaspoon salt
2 large eggs
2 cups (16 fl oz/500 ml) milk
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
2 tablespoons maple syrup
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted and cooled

In a bowl, add the teff flour, whole-wheat flour, cinnamon, baking powder, and salt and whisk to combine. In a separate bowl, crack the eggs, beat lightly with a fork, and add the milk, vanilla, and maple syrup. Add the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients, and stir just to combine. Stir in the melted butter last. Cook the pancakes in a large frying pan over medium-high heat, oiling the pan as needed, and turning the pancakes until golden. You could add berries, bananas, or even mashed sweet potato or shredded zucchini to the batter! Makes about 24 pancakes (about 4 inches/10 cm each). Freeze leftovers and toast to rewarm.

Nutrition Facts (per serving)
1 serving = 4 pancakes

Calories 280
Protein 12 g
Total fat 8 g
Saturated fat 4 g
Carbs 43 g
Fiber 6 g
Total sugar 9 g
Added sugar 4 g
Sodium 502 mg

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